Lessons learned from leak and gas pocket survey in Cork County

The first time new parties come together to work on a pipeline inspection project, they face a lot of pressure to perform.

The team must instill trust and understand each other to ensure the project goes off without a hitch. In this instance, that’s what happened when Pure Technologies (Pure) and its long-time partner WRc came together with;Irish Water, Cork County Council (CCC) to assess and address the condition of a critical water main in the City of Cork, Ireland.

As this was the first collaborative project among the four groups, it was also a test of the planning expertise, engineering skills and technology advances for Pure Technologies and WRc to impress upon Irish Water and Cork County Council. In the end, the inspection was successful, lessons were learned, and a positive new relationship was forged.

Aerial view of the City of Cork

Project Begins With Six Months of Planning

After six months of planning, in March 2017, Irish Water and its consultant WRc engaged Pure Technologies to conduct a non-destructive evaluation of approximately six (6) kms (3.7 miles) of 1500mm (60-inch) and 1200mm (48-inch) prestressed concrete cylinder pipe (PCCP) sections in the water main between Chetwynd reservoir and Carrs Hill, using the SmartBall® pipeline inspection platform.



SmartBall tool provides acoustic signature related to leaks and gas pockets

For the Inniscarra Water Main inspection, Pure Technologies deployed its proprietary SmartBall technology, a multi-sensor tool used to detect and locate the acoustic signature related to leaks and gas pockets in pressurized pipelines. The tool has the ability to inspect long distances in a single run, and while the SmartBall is deployed, the pipeline remains in service, limiting disruption to customers.

Unlike traditional listening tools like correlators, which have limited success on large diameter pipes, the free-flowing SmartBall technology provides a high degree of accuracy, because as the device travels along the pipeline, it continuously records the acoustic environment within the line. All data is stored onboard the device and later evaluated to determine the presence and location of any leaks or pockets of trapped gas.

Tool tracked at known points along the pipeline alignment


During inspection, the SmartBall tool’s location is tracked at known points along the alignment to correlate the inspection data with specific locations. As the SmartBall tool approaches a leak, the acoustic signal will increase and crescendo at the point when the tool passes the leak.

From insertion to extraction, the SmartBall inspection took a little over six hours, with no unexpected events that were not anticipated during the planning stage.

As the SmartBall was extracted, it was met with a round of roaring applause from assembled team members.

Results lead to effective management of finances and risk

Based on the inspection data, our analysts reported three (3) anomalies characteristic of leaks, and zero (0) acoustic anomalies characteristic of pockets of trapped gas.

Overall, both Irish Water and Cork County Council were pleased with the project results, as they were able to understand the overall condition of the pipeline and make an informed decision for capital improvements of the Inniscarra Water Main. The project demonstrates how Irish Water and CCC can use actionable data to effectively manage their finances and risk, while continuing to provide the community with a safe and reliable delivery of drinking water.